Eureka (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes

Eureka (2001)



Critic Consensus: With its subtitles and a running time nearing four hours, Eureka certainly places demands upon its viewers. For those with the patience, however, this visually lovely film builds to an emotionally resonant vision of transcendence.

Eureka Photos

Movie Info

One of the leading voices in the new Japanese cinema, Shinji Aoyama directs this spare, emotionally rich saga about memory, grief, and redemption, recalling such films as The Sweet Hereafter and Fearless (1993). Shot in stark black and white, the film opens midway through a bloody hijacking of a bus in rural Japan. The crazed terrorist (Riju Go) shoots and kills two hostages before the police even arrive and start to negotiate by phone. Stepping out of the bus, the hijacker drags bus driver Makoto (Koji Yakusho) along for cover, but when the driver faints and falls to the ground, the terrorist gets shot by police snipers. In his last dying effort, the hijacker stumbles back on board the bus and murders another passenger in front of a pair of shocked schoolchildren, Naoki (Masaru Miyazaki) and Kozue (Aoi Miyazaki). Two years later, Makoto's weird habit of wandering off unannounced for days at a time finally takes its toll on his marriage. Meanwhile, Naoki and Kozue are left mute from the experience, though they can communicate with each other without words. The silent siblings' mother soon walks out of her marriage and their father dies, leaving them alone in a large house with a substantial insurance check. Though Makoto continues to work at a construction company, he utterly ignores the advances of a comely office worker, and his strange behavior starts to raise a few eyebrows. When the bodies of murdered women begin washing up on a nearby river bank, Makoto's brother suspects him and asks him to leave their family house. Makoto shows up on Naoki and Kozue's doorstep, and soon the trio form a family of sorts. Their relative peace and order is upset by Akihiko (Yohichiroh Saitoh), the bumptious cousin from the city who is insensitive to the trauma that the trio have endured and who is increasingly suspicious of the kids' ersatz guardian. His disapproval of Makoto grows further when a clerk at his construction company turns up dead and Makoto is the prime suspect. He is ultimately released, due to a lack of evidence. For most movies, the events so far would be plenty grist for the mill, but for this film, which clocks in just shy of four hours, it functions merely as a set-up for the poignant emotional journey at the center of Eureka. Looking to break out of their routine, Makoto purchases a minivan, converts it into a camper, and takes his three housemates on an odyssey that begins at the site of the hijacking and ends at the sea. Eureka won the prestigious FIPRESCI Award at 2000 Cannes Film Festival.


Critic Reviews for Eureka

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (20)

Aoyama needs to put the editing into other hands.

May 11, 2001

This is a film to visually savor.

May 4, 2001 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

You feel time slipping through your fingers, but, gorgeous and studied to a fault, the film doesn't give you time to look down at your hands.

May 4, 2001 | Full Review…

Its rewards are greater than any bright-and-tight Hollywood movie you've seen so far this year.

May 4, 2001 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Don't let the running time scare you away from the exceptional bit of filmmaking.

May 4, 2001 | Rating: 2.5/4

To watch this film, in short, can be a transforming experience.

May 4, 2001 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Eureka

I would say something like, "Euleka", but Engrish does not necessarily replace "r" with "l", only "l" with "r"... I think, so to replace the r in "Eureka" with an l would just be offensive. Oh yes, because joking about Engrish speech probrems in the first prace is in no way offensive to Japanese peopre. Hey, you can say what you wirr-I mean, will, but this film is so Japanese that it's live-action and still looks like a manga, and plus, it's way too long. ...I don't know how the final product's length necessarily distinguishes it as extremely Japanese, but as Bollywood, Hong Kong and Chinese actions films have taught us throughout the years, the Asians are really into long movies. Hey, you can call me racist, but at least I was able to distinguish Hong Kong and China from Japan, though that might just be because after watching this three-and-a-half-hour-long drama that I'm pretty sure is Japanese, I feel as though I better be able to distinguish Asian nations. You know, come to think of it, I doubt that this film is Japanese, because even though this film is shot in sepia tone, to where I can't really notice brownish skin, all I saw were a bunch of people with slanted eyes, no jobs at a tech support service, or signs that they practice Hinduism. Tastelessly offensive jokes about just how different Asian races really can get if you look through the continent rong-I mean, long enough, whichever type of people behind this film seriously needed an editor, or at least knowledge of how to make a good drama, even though this film isn't exactly bad, largely because it's, well, too bland to be bad, and partially because of some undeniable strengths. Seeing as how it is so very often quiet, and much more so than it should be, the film plays up its musical aspects on only a handful of occasions, but once those occasions come, well, they're not necessarily worth the wait, - because we're still talking about a three-and-a-half-hour-long snoozefest here - but they are worthy of compliments, as Isao Yamada's and director-writer-"editor" Shinji Aoyama's score boasts a very Japanese elegance that is lovely and a touch entertaining, as well as a degree of dynamicity that adds to the color of the score and, by extension, the film itself. The film has a fine, if seriously underused score, and they back relative heights in entertainment value, as well as artistic value that never drifts too far away from the final product, thanks to Masaki Tamura's uniquely fine cinematography, whose sepia tone gives the film a look of some kind of moving oil painting that is not only strikingly tasteful, but complimentary to a dry tone that reflects the film's themes of finding only color within the world during a period of trauma. If nothing else can be said about the film, it is darn good-looking, with a unique visual style that may not come close to compensating for the questionability within the stylistic touches in storytelling, but is nonetheless worthy of praise as an inspired aspect that a story concept like the one betrayed in this film deserves. There's nothing especially engaging about this film's story concept, having a kind of minimalism that makes the astonishingly gratuitous 218-minute runtime all the more glaring, and yet, with that said, when you step back and take what is on paper, rather than what is in the final product, this story that dramatically studies upon the layered affects of trauma on individuals, and how the individuals interpret such trauma in different ways, is very promising, and reminders of this rest within anything from the occasional effective beat in Aoyama's directorial storytelling to consistently strong performances. I wouldn't so much say that acting material is limited as much as I would say this film is so long that the moments in which our leads have something to do feel few and far between, but rest assured that when the performers deliver, they really deliver, powered by a rich and convincing emotional range that effectively sells you on the depths of the leads in this conceptually highly emotional character drama. The performers give more than this film deserves, and that, of course, adds to the final product, which may primarily owe its being saved as merely mediocre to its simply being too bland to be bad, but is still with some undeniable strengths that, when really played up, give you an all too brief glimpse at what could have been: a compelling exploration of worthy themes. Of course, on the whole, this film is by no means that, or at least not effective as that, being too bland to be bad, but seriously bland nevertheless, to where it's hard to stay invested in a film that takes enough damage from, of all things, aspects that it doesn't take enough time meditating upon. The film is a sprawling, three-and-a-half-hour-long meditation upon people going around and letting their emotions bleed out, so it should pretty much go without saying that this film isn't exactly devoid of expository depth, but it's hard to not be at least a little bit thrown off right out of the gate by lapses in immediate development, whose compensation during the film's body is hardly as strong as it should be, for although you practically consequently get some insight into the characters because of all of these sprawling periods of pure meditation and emotionally charged acting, the film's expository build is too steady for its own good, giving you time to meditate upon what natural shortcomings within a generally promising story concept, if you're not entirely disengaged that is. As if it's not enough that this film is oh so very overlong, director Shinji Aoyama has the audacity to keep the atmosphere dry and many a scene about as quiet as he can, and that slows down, often to a screeching halt, so fast that you just can't believe it. It may seem a bit too early to start evoking the biggest problems, but I'm going to tell you right now that the biggest mark against this film is it's being just so blasted dull, with a cold atmosphere that I can see being heated up a bit in a film that isn't nearly as overdrawn as this one. I've referenced its length time and again, and I shall do so once again, because it should be brutally asserted that this film runs a staggeringly immense [u][b]three hours and eighteen minutes[/b][/u], which excited me a little at first by giving me the idea that the film would backed by a meatier and more well-rounded dramatic story, but ends up being near-punishing, as this a, say, two-hour film jam-packed with almost an hour-and-a-half's worth of, not necessarily excess material, but numbing, meandering filler that is so prominent that it ends up driving the final product's narrative. The film is aimless, with little in the way of a real focused sense of progression for a quarter of about fourteen-and-a-half hours (I say it like that so it will sound longer), and with such aimlessness going backed by the aforementioned consistent dryness, you end up with a film that leaves you feeling every one of its 218 minutes, and while such dullness actually saves the final product as too bland to be bad, it still stands and bores, which is frustrating enough the pretense. Aoyama is no so intensely demanding of your respect that he repels you and leaves the final product to collapse through its mediocrity and into contempt, but he is still self-congratulatory, backing his questionable vision with some kind of feeling of celebration that may breathe life into inspiration that gives this film the occasional high point, but mainly annoys you time and again, and makes the shortcomings behind the execution of this overambitious project all the more grating. Were the film even more flawed, or at least less well-done in some spots, it probably would have been bad, but as things stand, this film is still a frustrating betrayal of a worthy story concept that may be "saved" as too bland to be bad, but still proves to be a messily misguided, undercooked and overblown misfire unworthy of an investment of three-and-a-half hours of your time. In the long overdue end, the underused score is lovely, as is the unique and much more prominent photographic artistry that helps in adding light compliments to what engagement value there is to the final product, which is further powered by worthy subject matter and strong performances that, when played up, give you a glimpse of the rewarding drama that this film is ultimately not, for although the final product isn't so frustrating that I found myself truly disliking it, limited expository depth in the midst of a startlingly overdrawn runtime that is achieved through meandering filler behind an aimless narrative, - and made all the more glaring by way too much dull quietness and atmospheric dryness - as well as some pretense, make Shinji Aoyama's "Eureka" a boringly overblown betrayal of a promising story concept for the sake of questionable storytelling experimentation. 2/5 - Weak

Cameron Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer

Astonishing drama about a bus driver and two children who survive a deadly busjacking, and reunite two years later, and take a cross country journey of redemption to put the past behind them, even in the shadow of an insidious new string of murders. A masterful tale, gorgeously shot in washed out sepia tones, "Eureka" never wastes a minute of its 3 1/2 hour running time, and delivers a powerful punch.

Matthew Lucas
Matthew Lucas

Super Reviewer

Eureka Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features